Kornati National Park – where better to learn to drive a boat?

We’ve been thinking for a while that as people living on an island, we should have a boat. Especially here in Vrboska, with its long tradition of boat-building and fishing. To that end, we’ve recently signed up for the Royal Yachting Association’s Day Skipper course, which involves an online theory part (in progress), and a series of practical excursions on the water. First up, a two-day helmsman course to turn us (hopefully) into competent crew. Now, if you’re going to take to the water in a small boat, Šibenik makes an excellent base. From there, you get to learn amidst the most beautiful scenery.

The term small boat is a relative one compared, say, to our usual seagoing vessel, the car ferry Tin Ujević. In fact our introduction to messing around on the water was in a Beneteau Antares 36 foot motor yacht with roomy cabin, kitchen, shower and toilet, and a goodly selection of life’s modern comforts such as wifi, USB charger for phones, etc. To be honest, it was the equivalent of camping in a luxury motor-home. The Sveti Nikola also has a fly-bridge, which provided fantastic all-round views – such a great help when mooring in tight spots, and perfect for sightseeing!

Sveti Nikola - home for 2 days

Sveti Nikola – our home for 2 days

Overnight on the boat was a fun experience. Mandalina marina is a lovely peaceful place, with great views of Šibenik further round the bay. Rather than eat at the local pizzeria, we had brought our own picnic with us, which added to the feeling of camping!

Next morning, we were given some basic driving instruction. Just like in a car, we had to learn how to reverse park without causing any damage to ourselves or others. Unlike a car, however, this vehicle comes equipped with a handy set of inflatable bumpers (fenders) to prevent us getting too close. Practice, practice, practice!

Driving practice

Driving practice at Mandalina

Having achieved a respectable level of success for that exercise, skipper Krešo told us to head for the channel to the open sea.This is the mouth of the River Krka, with high rocky cliffs on each side, and the fort of Sv Nikola protecting the entrance to Šibenik. It’s recently gained UNESCO heritage status, and there are plans to renovate it somewhat to be more suitable for visitors. It must have been formidable when bristling with guns!

Fort of Sv Nikola

Fort of Sv Nikola

On the opposite shore is an old lighthouse, with the new one bolted on the side. I have to say the old building has so much more style, although the new part does at least have a red roof to match. I expect the modern light is a little brighter too! Looks to have plenty of accommodation – I wonder if you can stay there?

Lighthouse - old and new

Lighthouse – old and new

Next up, some mooring practice in a quiet cove with some orange buoys. From there it was on to lunch in Prvić, but not before more lessons on tying ourselves to various buoys and lines. In the same way as learning to fly, the crucial part is safe landings, or in this case moorings. Prvić harbour is a pretty little place, with a museum dedicated to Faust Vrančić, an inventor and renaissance man who could rival Leonardo DaVinci for his creative ideas.

Having successfully wrapped the mooring line around the propeller at this point (oopsie!), we got a short break while Krešo took a dip to untangle it. These things must be a serious trial in colder waters, but here the sea looked very inviting! Onwards then towards our overnight stopping place, the tiny harbour of Opat, with its renowned seafood restaurant. On the way, we passed the quaintly named island of Bakina Guzica (Granny’s Bum). And finally, some time for painting and a swim in that beautiful clear water!

Day 2 began with more practice in reverse parking, before we headed towards the outer edge of the Kornati islands, and a chance to throttle up the power. We were beginning to notice that many of the sailboats were also motoring, and I understand that not everyone who charters them actually uses the sails!

Looking at just a section of our chart, you can see how many small islands there are, and how quickly the seabed drops away on the west side. How close the 100 metre depth contour comes to the islands!

Marine chart

Marine chart

On the western outer edge, those islands are marked by steep cliffs, quite unlike the gentle roundness of the rest of the islands. This is not simple weathering, nor the action of the waves, it follows a very definite line along the outer edge of the Kornat and corresponds to a thrust fault just offshore, where the Adriatic (or Apulia) plate is being pushed beneath the coastal plate.

George Bernard Shaw visited here in 1929, and had his own idea about how these were forned: “On the last day of the Creation, God desired to crown his work and thus created the Kornati islands out of tears, stars and breath” He was obviously impressed too, and I guess plate tectonics hadn’t really been invented then! Round the top, and back down between the islands for somewhat of a contrast in scenery. No sheer cliffs here, though plenty of rocks and a little more vegetation. On the way, we get to play with the dinghy, learn how to drop anchor, and call into Kaprijje for more mooring practice and some lunch.

Heading back to Mandalina, we again passed by the fort of Sv Nikola, and enjoyed a little sailby of the Šibenik waterfront.This fairly vertical town looks lovely from the sea. This could be the best way to see it!

We really enjoyed our two days in Kornati, so impressed with the scenery and the sheer wild beauty of it. One of these days we must spend more time, and explore it all more thoroughly.

And I’ll leave you with this thought…

If a man must be obsessed by something, I suppose a boat is as good as anything, perhaps a bit better than most. A small sailing craft is not only beautiful, it is seductive and full of strange promise and the hint of trouble.” ―E.B. White

Read more…

NCP Yacht Charter in Šibenik

Royal Yachting Association

Kornati National Park official website

Konoba Opat, Kornati

Croatian Hydrocarbon Agency website has a good geological overview of the area

Faust Vrančić on Wikipedia

2 thoughts on “Kornati National Park – where better to learn to drive a boat?

  1. It sounds like an idyllic visit you had. I would love to visit the little town in your last photos.

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